Our comprehensive list of John Adams Facts will teach you the most important facts about John Adams,
signer of the Declaration of Independence, diplomat to Europe, first
Vice-President of the United States and 2nd President of the United
Adams was truly one of the most influential Founding Fathers of the
United States. He was called by his peers such things as the "Atlas of
American Independence" and the "Colossus of Independence." He is known
as the Father of the American Navy and wrote the Constitution of the
State of Massachusetts. His political writings helped shaped the new
governments of all the states and helped lay the political foundations
of the newly independent nation.
Adams served as a diplomat to France, Holland and was the first
Ambassador to Great Britain after the war. He played a key role in
signing the Treaty of Paris, the treaty that ended the American
Revolution. As President, he helped avert war with France that may have
doomed the new nation.
On this page you will learn about John Adams'
wife Abigail, his tumultuous relationship with Thomas Jefferson and
their reconciliation late in life. You will always read about how Adams
narrowly escaped capture by the British while at sea and find out that
he was a strong believer in the God of the Bible.
John Adams was born in what is now Quincy, Massachusetts. When he was born it was called the "Northern Precinct" of Braintree.
Father - John Adams, Sr., February 8, 1691 - May 25, 1761
Mother - Susanna Boylston Adams - March 5, 1708 - April 17, 1797
John Adams, Sr. was a farmer during the agricultural season and a cobbler or shoemaker during the rest of the year. He also served in several local town positions
as selectman (town council member), constable, tax collector and as a a
lieutenant in the Massachusetts colonial militia. Adams, Sr. also
served for many years as a deacon in the local Congregationalist church.
Adams, Sr. was known for his passion for his religious beliefs and was
affectionately known as "Deacon John."
Number of siblings
John Adams Facts - Birth order
John Adams was the oldest of 3 boys. The younger two were:
Peter Boylston Adams was a farmer and lieutenant in the Massachusetts colonial militia
- May 29, 1741 – March 18, 1776, Elihu was a captain of the Braintree
Company at the Siege of Boston and also fought at the Battle of Concord
in April, 1775. Elihu died of dysentery at the age of 34 in 1776 while
serving in the Continental Army. His wife's name was Thankful and they
had one daughter, Susanna.
John Adams Books & Videos
John Adams Facts - Personal Information
Nicknames and Pseudonyms
The Dutiful son of Deacon John
The Duke of Braintree
The Sage of Quincy
The Colossus of Independence
The Atlas of American Independence
The Father of the Navy
- Adams earned this nickname while Vice-President under George
Washington. He was heavily involved in a controversy over what title to
give to the new President. Adams preferred a lavish title such as "His
Majesty the President" or "His High Mightiness." Instead, the term
"President of the United States" won the debate. Adams earned the
nickname "His Rotundity" because of fighting for the more grandiose
titles, along with the fact that he was short and overweight!
John Adams Education
John Adams was first taught to read by his father.
He also attended a "dame school," which was a school for young children operated by a woman.
he attended Mr. Joseph Cleverly's Latin school, which was a sort of
preparatory school for college. John was not doing so well at this
school. He had a habit of skipping class to hunt and fish. He told his
father he would work harder if he could study with Mr. Marsh, a private
At 14, Adams began his studies with Mr. Marsh and his grades improved.
At the age of 16, Adams went to Harvard and studied
law. His father intended for him to go into the ministry, but John
liked what he saw in the legal profession instead. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, 15th out of 24 in his class in 1755 at the age of 20.
After teaching for a year at a Latin school in
Worcester and saving up his money for law school, Adams apprenticed with
lawyer James Putnam and went back to Harvard to earn a Master of Arts.
John Adams Facts - Religious Views
grew up as a Congregationalist and was a descendant of Puritan
immigrants to America. As such, he grew up in a Bible believing church.
He later attended a Unitarian Church, which in today's world is not
considered to be a Bible believing church, but during Adams' time was
much more orthodox in its belief system. Atheists sometimes use certain
quotes of John Adams to defend their
preferred supposition that he was not a Christian. However, these quotes
would be more adequately described as criticisms of church organizations and practices, rather than criticisms of Christian doctrine.
Several comments of Adams that shed light on his religious views:
"The Christian religion is, above
all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern
times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity, let the
Blackguard Paine say what he will." - in response to Thomas Paine's Deist book The Age of Reason.
"We went to meeting at Wells and
had the pleasure of hearing my friend upon "Be not partakers in other
men's sins. Keep yourselves pure."... We... took our horses to the
meeting in the afternoon and heard the minister again upon "Seek first
the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be
added unto you." There is great pleasure in hearing sermons so serious, so clear, so sensible and instructive as these..." - Letter to Abigail Adams, July 4, 1774
"This day I went to Dr. Allison's
meeting in the afternoon, and heard the Dr. Francis Allison... give a
good discourse upon the Lord's Supper... I had rather go to Church. We
have better sermons, better prayers, better speakers, softer, sweeter
music, and genteeler company. And I must confess that the Episcopal
church is quite as agreeable to my taste as the Presbyterian... I like
the Congregational way best, next to that the Independent..." - Letter to Abigail Adams, October, 1774
"It is religion and morality alone
which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely
stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue." - Letter to Zabdiel Adams, June 21, 1776
"It is the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons,
to worship the SUPREME BEING, the great Creator and Preserver of the
universe. And no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his
person, liberty, or estate, for worshipping GOD in the manner most
agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; or for his religious
profession or sentiments; provided he doth not disturb the public peace,
or obstruct others in their religious worship." - Thoughts on Government, 1776
"The use of the Bible is so
universal and its importance so great that your committee refers the
above to the consideration of Congress, and if Congress shall not think
it expedient to order the importation of types and paper, the Committee
recommends that Congress will order the Committee of Commerce
to import 20,000 Bibles from Holland, Scotland, or elsewhere, into the
different parts of the States of the Union. Whereupon it was resolved
accordingly to direct said Committee of Commerce to import 20,000 copies of the Bible." - On Committee to import bibles, September 11, 1777
"We have no government armed with
power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality
and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the
strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our
Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is
wholly inadequate for the government of any other." - Letter to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts, October 11, 1798
"The Christian religion, as I
understand it, is the brightness of the glory and the express portrait
of the character of the eternal, self-existent, independent, benevolent,
all powerful and all merciful creator, preserver, and father of the
universe, the first good, first perfect, and first fair. It will last as
long as the world. Neither savage nor civilized man, without a
revelation, could ever have discovered or invented it. Ask me not, then,
whether I am a Catholic or Protestant, Calvinist or Arminian. As far as
they are Christians, I wish to be a fellow-disciple with them all." - Letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, January 21, 1810
John Adams Facts - Occupations
John Adams' first job after graduating college was as a Latin school teacher
in Worcester. He stayed there for a year, saving up his money, before
becoming an apprentice of the lawyer James Putnam and returning to study
law at Harvard.
Adams was admitted to the bar in 1758 and started
his own law practice at the age of 23, which he carried on through the
beginning of the Revolution.
Once the Revolution began, Adams became involved in politics, which he was involved in the rest of his life, serving in various positions such as delegate to the Continental Congress, Ambassador to France and Great Britain and President of the United States.
John Adams Signature
John Adams Signature
from the Declaration of Independence
John Adams Facts - His Family
Date of marriage, wife's name
John Adams married Abigail Smith
on October 25, 1764. Abigail was 19 when they married, five days before
John's 29th birthday. They were third cousins. John was attracted to
Abigail because of her literary acumen which was unusual for women at
that time. Later she was known for her political wisdom, anti-slavery
stance and pro-women's liberation beliefs. She was a member of the
powerful Quincy family, a force in Massachusetts politics for
Children's names, birth order, occupations
John and Abigail Adams had six children:
Abigail (known as "Nabby") (July 14, 1765 – August 15, 1813) - Nabby married Colonel William Stephens Smith who was a secretary to her father John Adams when he was the United States minister to London. She died from breast cancer at the age of 48.
John Quincy Adams
(July 11, 1767 – February 23, 1848) - John Quincy served both as a
United States Senator and Representative to the House of Representatives
from Massachusetts, the United States Ambassador to the Netherlands
under President George Washington, Ambassador to Prussia under his
father President John Adams, Ambassador
to Russia and to the United Kingdom under President James Madison,
United States Secretary of State under President James Monroe and was
the 6th President of the United States.
Susanna Boylston (known as "Suky")(December 28, 1768 – February 4, 1770) - Suky died as an infant, only a little older than one year.
(May 29, 1770 – November 30, 1800) - Charles was trained at Harvard as a
lawyer but never found success, he also suffered from alcoholism, from
which he died at the age of 30.
Thomas Boylston Adams
(September 15, 1772 – March 13, 1832) - Thomas served as his brother
John Quincy's secretary when he was the US Ambassador to the Netherlands
and to Prussia from 1794 to 1798. He had a law degree from Harvard and
served in the Massachusetts legislature from 1805 to 1806 and as chief
justice of the Circuit Court of Common Pleas for the Southern Circuit of
Elizabeth Adams (1777) - Elizabeth was stillborn.
John Adams' son, John Quincy Adams - Became 6th President of the United States
Charles Francis Adams, Sr.
- Grandson of John Adams, son of John Quincy Adams. Charles Francis
served as a Representative to the US Congress from Massachusetts and was
senator in Massachusetts. He ran for vice-president twice and was a
prolific author and historical editor. Charles Francis produced a ten
volume series about the work of his grandfather called The Works of John Adams, Esq.
He served as Abraham Lincoln's Ambassador to Great Britain during the
Civil War. He was very instrumental in maintaining British neutrality
during the war and in monitoring and mitigating Confederate diplomatic
activity in England. Charles Francis built the first presidential
library to honor his father John Quincy Adams. The Stone Library is
located on the premises of the Adams National Historic Site, the
homestead of John and Abigail Adams and contains over 14,000 volumes.
One of Charles Francis Adams' great-grandfathers was Nathaniel Gorham, a signer of the United States Constitution.
Abigail Adams' mother Elizabeth Quincy Smith was a cousin of Dorothy Quincy, the wife of signer of the Declaration of Independence and Governor John Hancock.
Abigail Adams was the great-granddaughter of the Rev. John Norton
who was the founding minister of the Old Ship Church in Hingham,
Massachusetts. This is the only remaining 17th-century Puritan
meetinghouse in Massachusetts.
The birthplace of John Adams located in
Quincy (formerly Braintree), Massachusetts. The home is part of the
Adams National Historic Park. John later inherited the home from his
brother and lived here until he married Abigail in 1764. They moved just
next door to a house built on the same property. Three homes of John Adams and the Stone Library, which houses the books of John Quincy Adams are on the site.
John and Abigail lived here when John Quincy was born and owned the
property for the rest of their lives, though they moved back and forth
to Boston several times. This house sits just a few feet from the house
John was born in. John Adams' law office was in this house. It was also in this house where John Adams, Samuel Adams and James Bowdoin wrote the 1780 Constitution for the State of Massachusetts.
stayed at this home on the Lange Brug in Leiden, the Netherlands with
his boys John Quincy and Charles while they were studying at the
University of Leiden when he was trying to negotiate Dutch assistance
with the American Revolution.
lived in this house on Grosvenor Square, one of London's most
fashionable neighborhoods, with Abigail and his daughter from 1785-1788
when he was Minister to Great Britain. The building was the United
States Embassy for many years until a new one was built elsewhere on the
square. The building was sold to the Canadian High Commission and today
holds the offices of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Click to enlarge
Peacefield, aka The Old House, Quincy, Massachusetts
Home of John Adams after 1787
John and Abigail Adams
purchased this home in 1787. It had belonged to a loyalist who fled New
England. It is in Quincy, Massachusetts (Braintree at the time), right
next to the John Adams birthplace house
and the John Quincy Adams birthplace house. The whole property is
operated by the National Park Service as part of the Adams National
Historical Park. The home consisted of only four ground floor rooms with
an attic when they bought it. The rest was added later by Abigail and
their son Charles Francis Adams. By the way, the proper pronunciation of
the town Quincy is QUIN-ZEE, with the cy sounding like ZEE!
Richmond Hill was the home of John and Abigail Adams
at the beginning of his first term as Vice-President. At that time, the
home of the government was New York City. Richmond Hill was just north
of the town. It had served as George Washington's headquarters for the
Continental Army for a brief time during the war and would later be
owned by Aaron Burr. The Adams's lived here only for a year before the
government was moved to Philadelphia in 1790.
This is the President's House that stood at 524-530 Market Street in Philadelphia where John Adams, and George Washington
before him, lived when they were President. Adams lived here from March
21, 1797 to May 30, 1800, at which time he moved out because the
government was being moved to the newly built Washington DC.
White House, circa 1800
This is how the White House looked when John Adams
lived in it from a drawing around 1800. At the time, it was called the
Executive Mansion. The familiar south and north porticoes were not added
until 1824 and 1830 respectively.
John Adams Facts - Pre-Revolutionary War
How he first got involved in the independence effort?
John Adams first rose to prominence in Boston during the Stamp Act
crisis of 1765. He was the author of the "Braintree Instructions,"
which were his town's instructions to its representative in the
Massachusetts Legislature telling him not to comply with any provisions
of the Stamp Act. The Braintree Instructions ended up being a model that
many other towns used to instruct their representatives as well.
Adams also wrote a popular series
of essays that appeared in the Boston Gazette in August 1765. They were
later republished under the title A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law.
In these essays, Adams tied Puritan principles to the principle of
resistance to unjust government and explained how the British Parliament
was violating two inalienable rights of all British citizens - the
right to be taxed only by one's elected representatives and the right to
trial by jury.
Adams delivered a speech to the Governor and
council in December of 1765 in which he stated that the Stamp Act was
unjust based on the fact that it was not chosen by the colonists'
Adams continued his public criticisms of the Townshend Acts in 1767 and 1768, which attempted to raise taxes on the colonists.
In 1768, Adams defended John Hancock against
smuggling charges in the vice-admiralty court. Part of his argument was
that Parliament could not tax the colonists without their consent and
that the existence of the vice-admiralty courts, which did not use
juries, was a violation of the colonists' rights. The charges against
Hancock were dropped and this made Adams enormously popular.
In 1769, John Adams took a case called Rex vs. Corbet,
in which some American sailors were charged with the murder of a
British naval officer when he tried to impress them into naval service.
The sailors were found innocent on the grounds that impressment into
naval service was illegal. Adams popularity soared all the more.
The colonists' opposition to the Townshend Acts led to the British occupation of Boston in 1768, which in turn led to the Boston Massacre
on March 5, 1770, in which an incident of colonists taunting British
soldiers turned bloody when the soldiers became afraid for their safety.
John Adams, as a prominent attorney
and public voice, was asked by the soldiers to represent them in court
after they were tried with murder and no other lawyers would represent
them. Adams agreed to defend the soldiers because he believed they were
innocent of firing first on the crowd and because he believed everyone
should have the right to a fair trial. He defended them even though he
knew it would be unpopular in the eyes of fellow Bostonians. In the end,
6 of the 8 soldiers were acquitted. The other two, who had fired
directly into the crowd, were convicted of manslaughter. Their sentence
was to be branded on their thumbs. Adams didn't seem to suffer in the
public's eye after the trial. Instead, his stature increased because of
his fight for fairness and basing the conviction on evidence and not on
popular mob rule.
Adams was elected to the Massachusetts General
Court (the Massachusetts Legislature) shortly before the trial of the
Boston Massacre soldiers started.
In 1772, Adams wrote "Two Replies of the Massachusetts House of Representatives to Governor Hutchinson,"
at the request of fellow Boston patriots in response to Parliament's
decision to remove the responsibility of the colonial legislatures of
paying the salaries of their Royal Governors and judges. Instead,
Parliament would pay their salaries. In it, Adams articulated that the
colonies were never under the authority of Parliament and that if
Parliament could not agree to this, the only alternative left to the
colonists was to seek independence.
Adams was elected to the First Continental Congress in 1774 and the Second Continental Congress in 1775 when the war began.
Adams published his work "Novanglus; Or, A History of the Dispute with America from its Origin, in 1754, to the Present Time,"
in 1775. In this work, Adams used his extensive knowledge of British
and colonial law to describe the history and principles of British law
and how they had developed over time. He used his conclusions to show
decisively why Parliament did not have authority over the colonies and
why the colonial legislatures had complete legal control over all
Through all of these activities, speeches and
writings, Adams became well known to the point that once he arrived in
the Continental Congress he was well respected and immediately became a
leader in the forefront.
John Adams Facts - The Revolutionary War begins!
Where was he when the war began?
Adams was at home in Braintree when
the war broke out in Lexington and Concord in April 1775. He rode out
along the route to see the results for himself, passing British soldiers
and burned houses. Shortly afterwards, he left for the Second
Continental Congress in Philadelphia. In June, Adams nominated George Washington
to become the leader of the Continental Army, an important move because
Washington's involvement helped persuade the southern states to join in
military involvement in the war.
Did he see military action during the war?
never fought in the war. He was serving in political office for most of
the time. The closest he came to military action occurred during his
1778 trip to France where he was appointed an ambassador from Congress.
During the voyage, Adams' ship, the Continental Navy frigate Boston outran several British ships trying to capture her. As the Boston approached Spain, Adams personally took up arms and participated in the capture of a British merchant ship called the Martha.
John Adams Facts - Accomplishments during the Revolution
On May 6, 1776, John Adams
proposed a resolution to the Continental Congress that each colony
should form its own government independent of England. On May 10th, the
resolution was adopted. This was effectively the first vote for complete
independence in Congress, even though the formal resolution for
independence was not made until July 2nd.
Adams nominated George Washington to be Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army.
Adams seconded the resolution of Richard Henry Lee, known as the Lee Resolution, on June 7, 1776, which declared that colonies should declare their independence.
John Adams was one of five men who served on the "Committee of Five" that wrote the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson drafted the document, then John Adams, Ben Franklin,
Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston advised and made alterations before
presenting the document to the full Congress where it was amended some
more before its final acceptance. The other members of the committee
favored John Adams to write the
Declaration, but he insisted that Jefferson write it because he thought
Jefferson was a better writer and because he believed that he, himself,
was not well liked. You can read more about how Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence here.
served on more committees in the Continental Congress than any other
delegate. He served on more than 90 committees and was the chairman of
25 of them! This included the powerful Board of War and Ordinance, the
committee in charge of the Continental Army.
Adams wrote most of the new Constitution of the State of Massachusetts in 1780.
John Adams served as one of the chief negotiators of the Treaty of Paris,
which was the treaty signed between the United States and Great Britain
that ended the war in 1783, along with John Jay and Ben Franklin.
Click to enlarge
Signature Page of the Treaty of Paris
w/ John Adams' signature
John Adams Facts - Offices he held
John Adams Facts - Which government offices did he hold?
Elected as Surveyor of Highways in Braintree - 1764
Selectman (town council member) in Braintree - 1766
Delegate to Massachusetts Assembly, June 1770, 1773
Delegate to the First Continental Congress from Massachusetts Bay - September 5, 1774 – October 26, 1774
Delegate to the Second Continental Congress from Massachusetts - May 10, 1775 – June 27, 1778
Commissioner to France - 1778 - 1779
Member of Massachusetts State Constitutional Convention - 1779
Minister Plenipotentiary to negotiate terms of peace with Great Britain - September 27, 1779 - 1781
United States Ambassador to the Netherlands - April 19, 1782 – March 30, 1788
United States Ambassador to Great Britain - April 1, 1785 – March 30, 1788
1st Vice President of the United States - April 21, 1789 – March 4, 1797
2nd President of the United States - March 4, 1797 – March 4, 1801
Delegate to new Massachusetts Constitutional Convention - 1820
Did he hold any office under the Royal government?
John Adams Facts - Which party was he in?
John Adams Facts - Interesting Personal Information
Boston Massacre - John Adams
was the lawyer who defended the British soldiers who were involved in
the Boston Massacre in 1770 when they fired on an unarmed crowd that was
taunting them. Adams knew the decision would be unpopular, but believed
that everyone had a right to be defended in court. Only two of the
soldiers were convicted of manslaughter, but Adams never suffered any
retribution from his fellow colonists for defending them.
As Ambassador to the Netherlands from 1782 to 1785, John Adams
helped secure recognition from the Netherlands of the new United States
government as an independent nation on April 19, 1782. He also
negotiated two large loans from the Netherlands to the fledgling US
government that helped the government stay solvent as it struggled to
pay off its war debts and rebuild after the war.
purchased a home at Fluwelen Burgwal 18 in the Hague while he was
Ambassador to the Netherlands in 1782. This home became the first
American embassy in the world.
John Adams negotiated the United States' first treaty of amity and commerce after the Revolution with the Netherlands in October 1782.
A specific date for the end of
slavery in Massachusetts is hard to determine, but it is usually
considered to be no later than 1780 when the Massachusetts Constitution
was adopted. In the Constitution, which was written by John Adams, slavery was forbidden by its Declaration of Rights.
The passing of power from the first
President of the United States, George Washington, to the second
President of the United States, John Adams,
marked the first peaceful regime change of the new country. Adams is
credited with keeping in place most of George Washington's policies and
programs, as well as keeping his entire cabinet in place. This helped
ensure a peaceful transition and established the manner of all the
future peaceful regime transitions to come.
John Quincy Adams,
John Adams' eldest son, became the 6th President of the United States,
16 months before Adams died. Along with George H.W. Bush and George W.
Bush, they are the only father/son pairs to ever be elected President.
In his role as President of the Senate, as George Washington's Vice-President, it fell to John Adams to count the ballots during the election of 1796. It also fell to him to announce the winner... John Adams.
Samuel Adams was 13 years older than his second-cousin John Adams.
The Massachusetts Constitution, which was largely written by John Adams, is the oldest constitution still in use in the world.
The John Adams
$1 presidential coin was released in 2007 as part of the US Mint's $1
Presidential Coin series honoring all of America's presidents.
John Adams $1 Coin
John and Abigail Adams exchanged over 1100 letters
which survived. They give one of the best glimpses into life during the
American Revolution and founding period of any source. They discuss
everything from farming their land to politics to foreign affairs to
raising their children. Part of the reason they wrote so many letters
was because John was gone so often on diplomatic duties and writing was
their only way of communicating.
December of 1800 was a hard month for John and
Abigail Adams. Not only did John fail to win re-election to the
presidency, but their second son, Charles, died of alcoholism.
appointed dozens of judges in his last few days and hours of office as
President before Thomas Jefferson was to take over. These became known
as the "midnight judges." One of his appointees was William Marbury, who
was to be the Justice of the Peace for the District of Columbia.
Because of the late hour of the appointments, not all of the commissions
could be delivered before Jefferson took over on March 4, 1801. The new
Secretary of State under Thomas Jefferson, James Madison,
at Jefferson's direction, refused to deliver the remaining commissions,
leading to a lawsuit filed by Mr. Marbury, alleging that it was illegal
for Mr. Madison not to deliver his commission. The case went to the
Supreme Court where John Marshall, who was also appointed by John Adams, was the Chief Justice. The final ruling, in one of the most important cases in American legal history, is known as Marbury vs. Madison.
In the ruling, the Chief Justice wrote that the court did not have the
authority to force Mr. Madison to deliver the commission. Mr. Marbury
argued that the Court did have this authority because of the Judicial
Act of 1789. The Court said the Act directly contradicted Article III of the Constitution,
which describes the Supreme Court's authority. Justice Marshall stated
that the Congress could not override the Constitution with its own laws
and overturned the relevant portion of the Judicial Act of 1789. This
established a precedent in American law known as judicial review,
in which the Court determines whether or not a law passed by a
legislative body is constitutional or not. The principle of judicial
review took hold in American law and is practiced regularly to this day,
though it is controversial and many people believe the Courts should
not have the authority to overturn laws made by elected representatives.
John Adams lived longer than any former President, to the age of 90, until Ronald Reagan succeeded him, living to the age of 93.
John Adams outlived his wife by 8 years and also outlived four of his six children.
Both John Adams
and Thomas Jefferson were invited to attend the nation's 50th
Anniversary celebrations on July 4th, 1826 in Washington DC. Both of
them declined the invitation due to their health, Adams being almost 91
and Jefferson 83. Of course, both of them passed away on that very day,
July 4th, 1826.
Peacefield, John Adams
home in Quincy, Massachusetts, was lived in by successive generations
of Adams descendants until 1927. In 1946, all three Adams houses
(including the birth homes of John and John Quincy), the Stone Library
and 13 acres was given to the United States by the Adams family. The 13
acre property and 11 buildings comprise the Adams National Historic Park
and include personal books and papers of John Adams,
John Quincy Adams, Charles Francis Adams, Henry Adams and Brooks Adams,
as well as over 100,000 artifacts and original furnishings.
More Interesting John Adams Facts
John Adams lost his first case as a lawyer on a technicality. He forgot to write the name of the county on the writ!
Adams' first significant legal victory was to get
wine smuggling charges dropped against a prominent client in 1769. The
client was John Hancock.
Captain Thomas Preston was in charge of the soldiers who fired on the crowd in the Boston Massacre. After John Adams
defended him in court and he was declared innocent, Preston wrote to
General Gage about what a marvelous job his lawyers had done, but he
never personally thanked John Adams according to Adams' own diary!
During the election of 1793, the
Anti-Federalists started a rumor that the Federalists were going to
start a monarchical dynasty by sending Nabby Adams, John Adams' daughter, to England to marry King George III!
When John Adams
was President, Great Britain and France were at war. France began to
seize American merchant ships that were trading with Great Britain. In
spite of this, France remained popular in America due to its recent help
in winning the American Revolution. This changed though due to an event
called the XYZ Affair, in which French diplomats asked for large bribes
before they would negotiate an end to the harassment of American
shipping. This caused a huge shift in the American public's opinion to
the point where many began to call for all out war against France.
President Adams knew America could not win a war against France, but he
did consent to the harassment of French ships by American ships. This is
now known as the Quasi-War with France. Adams built up the army and
navy in case of an all out French invasion. He built six new frigates
for the Navy, including the still commissioned USS Constitution,
which is moored in Boston Harbor. In February, 1799, Adams sent William
Vans Murray to France to negotiate a permanent peace with Napoleon
Bonaparte. Many Americans were angry with Adams for not going to war
with France, but most historians believe Adams' foresight saved the
American republic. If they had gone to war with France at the time, many
believe that the United States would not have survived past its
infancy. Adams lost much of his popularity due to the decision and this
was part of the reason why he did not win a second term. He came to
believe though that it was one of the wises decisions he ever made, in
spite of the personal cost to his reputation. In a letter to James Lloyd
in January, 1815, Adams stated that, "I desire no other inscription
over my gravestone than: Here lies John Adams, who took upon himself the responsibility of the peace with France in the year 1800."
also lost popularity due to his signing the Alien and Sedition Acts
into Law. These were a series of laws designed by Federalists to reign
in opposition Democratic-Republicans who were threatening rebellion and
secession from the United States. The atmosphere was during a time of
impending war with France. Many Democratic-Republicans believed the
Federalists were acting as monarchs and aristocrats and seemed to
encourage a bloody French Revolution style rebellion against them. Some
were threatening to refuse to follow federal laws. Others were
threatening secession from the union. Federalists believed French
immigrants and agents were the source of much of this ideology. This
caused Federalists in Congress to pass the Alien and Sedition Acts,
which gave prison terms and fines for publishing "false" information
about the government, required a period of 14 years before immigrants
could become citizens and gave the President authority to deport
immigrants he thought were a danger. Only ten people were ever convicted
under the Acts. President Adams never supported the Acts or deported
anyone, but since he signed them into law he was targeted. The Acts were
enormously unpopular because of their obvious curtailing of free speech
rights. His signing of the Alien and Sedition Acts helped secure Adams'
defeat for a second term.
During the XYZ Affair crisis and
the Quasi-War with France, Congress greatly increased the size of the
army and navy and raised taxes to fund them. Many Americans were
outraged with the higher taxes, especially those of Jefferson's
Democratic-Republican party. In eastern Pennsylvania, farmers refused to
pay the taxes and even attacked federal tax collectors in an incident
known as Fries' Rebellion. John Adams later pardoned everyone who was arrested shortly before the election of 1800.
The Stone Library was built at the request of John
Quincy Adams in his will. It houses 14,000 books that were in his
personal collection. The building sits on the Adams' property near the
Peacefield House. It is called the "Stone" Library because Adams
specifically requested that the building be built of stone to prevent
its being destroyed by fire. It was finished in 1873.
spent almost his entire presidency in Philadelphia, which was then the
seat of the federal government. He left the President's House in
Philadelphia in May, 1800. He was the first President to live in the
White House. He moved in on November 1 of 1800, in the final months of
One of John Adams'
most influential acts as President turned out to be his appointing of
John Marshall as the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Marshall
was the longest serving Chief Justice in the Court's history, serving
for 34 years. He laid much of the foundations of American law and helped
cement many of Adams' Federalist party ideals into the government,
including the idea that federal courts should throw out laws that
violate the Constitution and the authority of federal law over state
Adams tried to appoint John Jay as Chief Justice in
1800. Jay had served in the position under Washington, but stepped down
in 1795 when he became governor of New York. Jay declined the
appointment and Adams appointed John Marshall instead, who became the
longest serving Chief Justice in American history.
John Adams Facts - Works and Quotes
Selected works by John Adams
The Braintree Instructions, 1765 - John Adams
wrote this set of instructions from the town of Braintree to its
representative in the Massachusetts Legislature, telling him not to
cooperate with any provisions of the Stamp Act.
A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law,
August, 1765 - This work was published as four separate articles during
the Stamp Act crisis of 1765. It was reprinted in London in 1768 under
this title. It relates many of the themes of liberty and freedom from
unjust law that led to the Revolution.
Novanglus, Or, A History of the Dispute with America from its Origin, in 1754, to the Present Time, 1775 - In this work, John Adams
lays out the history and rights of the British Constitution. He also
describes how the colonial legislatures are legally sovereign over their
own territories and why Parliament does not have control over them.
Thoughts on Government,
April 1776 - Because of Adams' extensive knowledge of the law, he was
often asked his opinion about how the newly freed states should form
their new constitutions. Richard Henry Lee of Virginia published Adams'
suggestions in this pamphlet which was referred to by every state as
they wrote their new governing documents. In it, Adams recommends a
republican form of government, bicameral legislatures, separation of
powers between the branches of government and enumerated powers - the
principle that the responsibilities of the government should be confined
to those decided upon and written down by the people and should go no
A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States,
1787 - Adams wrote this work while he was Minister to Great Britain. In
it, he defends the structure of the Constitutions of the various states
in America. He explains and validates the use of bicameral
legislatures, separation of powers and the necessity of having a strong
executive branch to prevent the development of a controlling
Inaugural Address, March 4, 1797
Presidential Proclamation of Fasting and Prayer, March 3, 1798
John Adams and Abigail Letters,
1763-1801 - John and Abigail Adams wrote a voluminous number of letters
during his political and diplomatic travels. Scholars view the more
than 1,100 letters as one of the best windows into early American life
because of the wide range of topics they discussed in the letters.
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson letters,
1812-1824 - Adams and Jefferson exchanged many letters during the
latter part of their lives. Their discussions ranged upon everything
from agriculture to politics. Since they lived the longest of any of the
founders, except for Charles Carroll, their opinions and views give a
unique look into the founding period.
Quotes by John Adams
"Facts are stubborn things; and
whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our
passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." - Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials, December 1770
"There is danger from all men. The
only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with
power to endanger the public liberty." - Notes for an Oration at Braintree, Massachusetts, Spring, 1772
"We have appointed a continental
Fast. Millions will be upon their Knees at once before their great
Creator, imploring his Forgiveness and Blessing, his Smiles on American
Councils and Arms." - Letter to Abigail Adams, June 17, 1775
"It is religion and morality alone
which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely
stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue." - Letter to Zabdiel Adams, June 21, 1776
"The Second Day of July 1776, will
be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to
believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the
great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of
Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be
solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells,
bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the
other, from this time forward forever." - Letter to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776
"My country has in its wisdom
contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention
of man contrived or his imagination conceived." - Speaking of his role as Vice-President in a letter to Abigail Adams, December 19, 1793
"I pray Heaven to bestow the best
of blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May
none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof." - About the White House, in a letter to Abigail Adams, November 2, 1800
"Our obligations to our country never cease but with our lives." - Letter to Benjamin Rush, April 18, 1808
"This illustrious patriot has not
his superior, scarcely his equal, for Abilities & virtue on the
whole continent of America." - Benjamin Rush to Jacques Barbeu-Dubourg - September 16, 1776
"You stand nearly alone in the
history of our public men in never having had his integrity called in
question or even suspected." - Benjamin Rush to John Adams, 1811
"He means well for his country, is
always an honest man, often a wise one, but sometimes, and in some
things, absolutely out of his senses." - Benjamin Franklin to Robert Livingston - July 22, 1783
"Mr. Adams, like other men, has his
faults and his foibles. Some of the opinions he is supposed to
entertain, we do not approve—but we believe him to be honest, firm,
faithful and independent—a sincere lover of his country—a real friend to
genuine liberty; but combining his attachment to that with the love of
order and stable government. No man’s private character can be fairer
than his. No man has given stronger proofs than him of disinterested and
intrepid patriotism." - Alexander Hamilton to John Steele - October 15, 1792
John Adams was "the pillar of [the
Declaration's] support on the floor of Congress, its ablest advocate and
defender against the multifarious assaults it encountered." - Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to William P. Gardner, February 19, 1813
"The man to whom the country is
most indebted for the great measure of independency is Mr. John Adams of
Boston. I call him the Atlas of American Independence." - Declaration of Independence signer Richard Stockton in a letter to his son, 1821
"John Adams was our Colossus on the
floor. He was not graceful, nor elegant, nor remarkably fluent; but he
came out occasionally with a power of thought & expression, that
moved us from our seats." - Thomas Jefferson, Conversation with Daniel Webster, 1824
"I have always viewed him, as a man
of eminent talents, zealously, courageously & faithfully exerted in
effecting the Independence of the Thirteen United Colonies: and I
believe that he, more than any other individual, roused and prepared the
minds of his fellow citizens to decide positively and timely that
greatest revolutionary question." - Timothy Pickering to Daniel Webster, July 19, 1826
John Adams Facts - The end of his life
Date and age of retirement
retired from public life with his defeat for a second presidential term
in 1800. He lived at his home in Braintree, Massachusetts for the rest
of his life.
Death of John Adams
Adams fell ill with pneumonia shortly before his death on July 4, 1826 (aged 90). He fell into a coma and died of heart failure.
Where was John Adams buried?
is buried at the United First Parish Church in Quincy (once Braintree),
Massachusetts, along with his wife Abigail and their son, John Quincy
Adams, the 6th President of the United States and his wife Louisa. All
four were originally buried in the cemetery across the street, but were
later moved into the church. Two gated doors lead into the low-ceilinged
chamber in the basement of the church. The coffins are lined up with John Adams first on the left, then Abigail, John Quincy and Louisa. The church was once pastored by John Hancock's father.
John Adams' tomb in the basement of the
United First Parish Church, Quincy, Massachusetts. Notice the flag has
15 stars and 15 stripes. This is how the flag looked during Adams'
presidency after the first two new states, Vermont and Kentucky, were
added to the union. It is also known as the Star Spangled Banner Flag.
In this picture, you can see how all four crypts are laid out side by side in the room. John Adams' crypt is the first one in the lower left, followed by Abigail's, John Quincy's and Louisa's.
Epitaph on gravestone
had once written in a letter to James Lloyd that he wished for the
following statement to be on his gravestone: "I desire no other
inscription over my gravestone than: Here lies John Adams,
who took upon himself the responsibility of the peace with France in
the year 1800." However, on the current crypt, only the name "John Adams" is inscribed. The plaque hanging in front of the mausoleum says:
FRAMER OF THE CONSTITUTION OF MASSACHUSETTS
SECOND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
THE JOHN ADAMS CHAPTER DAUGHTERS
OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION CAUSED
THIS TABLET TO BE AFFIXED
The clip below is from the HBO original miniseries John Adams, which was based on the book, John Adams
by Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough. If you have not seen
the movie or read the book, you should take the time! They give an
excellent depiction not only of John Adams, but of the whole founding period.